Leaflets have long been a preferred way for retailers to inform consumers of upcoming sales or special offers and are a staple of most marketing strategies across Northern Europe.
But times and attitudes change. Today, consumers rely heavily on online research before making purchase decisions1 — even for purchases they eventually make in stores. That’s not to say that print is dead; physical leaflets still play an important role in a retailer’s media mix.
However, shifts in consumer behaviour have eroded their position, leading to advertisers looking for alternative ways of reaching consumers, beyond the traditional leaflet drop – particularly as they look for helpful marketing solutions in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
So, what is driving the changes in consumer behaviour and attitudes? And what digital alternatives can businesses turn to in order to drive people to their stores?
Elgiganten’s step in a different direction
One company attempting to replicate the success of printed leaflets online is electronics retailer Elgiganten.
“More than 50% of Danish households don’t accept printed leaflets,” explains Michael Laursen, team leader in digital marketing at Elgiganten. “They have a sign on their mailbox saying: 'No ads, thank you'.”
Laursen and his colleagues realised that an alternative approach was needed. They created an interactive digital version of their leaflet and hosted it on their website. The digital leaflets contain features such as click-through product promotions, index of product categories in the leaflet to provide easy navigation.
“We started moving towards digital five years ago. We did some testing in the initial stage and one of the best things about this project is that we have a CEO and office that is pro-digital, so they want to test it and see what happens.”
Why the change in consumer behaviour?
Along with Elgiganten and Carat, media agency Data2Decisions undertook marketing mix modelling to better understand why people were moving away from printed leaflets, and to test the potential of embarking on a digital transformation.
They discovered that in urban areas in particular there has been a significant shift in attitudes towards leaflets. Complex econometric, geographical, and demographic analysis and modeling found that while some consumers don’t want a barrage of leaflets filling up their mailboxes, others choose to go online for attractive offers when and where they need them.
Another important factor is environmental awareness. The discussion around climate change is growing louder, and many Danes are making changes in their daily lives, including how they choose to receive information. “We wanted to find a new way to reach customers, while getting the same volume of people to our stores and online,” explains Laursen.
Start with small steps, not giant leaps
At first, Elgiganten’s new strategy involved simply converting their printed leaflets to a PDF format for desktop. But as the technology developed, the company knew its leaflet must become more dynamic, and more relevant to mobile users across their entire journey.
The technology behind the leaflet is now set up to remove a lot of processes that were previously manual and the content the customer sees can be much more agile.
“We can now change prices and products up to five minutes before next week's leaflet is published,” says Laursen. “With a printed leaflet, we have a three-week lead time which means it's not as reactive.”
Driving sales more efficiently with digital leaflets
The marketing mix model undertaken by Data2Decisions2 found that both digital and physical leaflets play a critical role in the media mix. While physical leaflets still contribute significantly to revenue volume (driving 1.6X more sales than TV and 5X more sales than digital leaflets for Elgiganten), digital leaflets are 4.5X more efficient at driving sales than physical leaflets. It’s worth noting there is a high efficiency for digital channels; for example, at current investment levels, generic Search had a 1.9X ROI compared to TV, and Programmatic Display had a 1.8X ROI compared to TV.
“I'm a firm believer that you can't reach everybody with one channel, so it's all about the marketing mix,” says Laursen. “Part of this journey has seen us conduct an ecosystem analysis with Data2Decisions, looking into which marketing channel worked hardest for us.”
The analysis also gave Elgiganten a great insight into which channels were overexposed at times. “It's a really good way of knowing how you use your money,” adds Laursen. “As a lot of information is divided into silos, it’s really important for us to gather all that information together moving forward.”
Knowing your market and adapting accordingly
When analysing physical and digital leaflet efficiency over time, it becomes clear that recent initiatives have not only improved digital leaflet efficiency (+19% efficiency gain per leaflet), but also had a significantly positive impact on physical leaflet efficiency (+39% efficiency gain per leaflet). Elgiganten achieved this by removing investments in physical leaflets from urban zones — the areas saying “no ads, thank you” — and instead focusing their efforts on digital formats in these areas.
Laursen believes it’s important for all businesses to try new things. The key is to test. “Don't ever sit around and wonder what might have been,” he says. “Our approach at Elgiganten has always been to test. And if it floats, we're sailing. If it doesn't, we'll try to build a new boat.”
- Analyse, test, implement… repeat. The gain in efficiency showcased by Elgiganten was built on the insight that consumers are increasingly relying on digital channels to research and purchase products they need — especially in urban areas. As a result, Elgiganten shifted resources towards a digital leaflet strategy in these areas and gained significant increase in their leaflet efficiency.
Constantly adapt your media mix. Improving media efficiency is not about discarding traditional media channels but rather about continuously adapting your (media) mix to meet the consumers when and where they need you.
Please note that this research was carried out in 2019 in a pre-COVID-19 context.